Last week’s decision to phase out polystyrene (Styrofoam) is the beginning of a conversation that will lead to greater environmental awareness and environmentally-friendly action in Tobago.
This intention was made clear by Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment Kwesi Des Vignes, who said more attention needs to be paid to preserving the island’s environment.
“Last Thursday (March 23, 2017), the House would’ve passed a motion to phase out polystyrene foam products on the island,” Des Vignes said. “I want to emphasise ‘phasing out’ because there seems to be a miscommunication somewhere in the public that there’s a ban on the products.”
Responding to public comments on the issue, Des Vignes said there is “always resistance to change,” he said, but noted “the conversation [on the environment] has begun”.
The Secretary said on Wednesday (March 29, 2017), the THA Executive Council approved the formation of a multi-stakeholder team that will help increase public awareness on the issue. The team will include THA and youth representatives, as well as business and environmental stakeholders.
The team will provide an action plan on the way forward, including “looking at” alternatives and ways to ensure a cleaner environment.
The 11-member team will be chaired by the Department of Environment, and Des Vignes said the campaign will last close to two months. The Secretary said alternative materials being researched includes corn starch, bagasse, and edible and recyclable products.
“I’m getting a lot of calls from suppliers because alternatives are there,” Des Vignes said.
On Thursday (April 6), there will be a showcase of alternative products at the Division’s Conference Room in Shaw Park. In addition, the Division will soon start sensitising suppliers and “look to introduce providers with green alternatives of food packaging and manufacturing.”
The Secretary said the motion also has significant support.
“I’ve received a lot of unsolicited support from stakeholders in the tourism industry [and] the dive industry, even some businesses,” he said.